Buffalo Trace Review – Single Barrel from Total Beverage

Buffalo Trace Single Barrel

If you read Mike Veach or Chuck Cowdery, you know that Buffalo Trace’s Frankfort footprint has been home to one of the most interesting historical narratives in Kentucky. From Old Fire Copper and George T. Stagg, all the way to the current Buffalo Trace Distillery, each name that has graced the door represents an era that has produced a unique and lasting contribution to Kentucky Bourbon.

This era is no different. Innovation, expansion and an unquenchable demand seem to be the theme of the modern day Buffalo Trace Distillery. No doubt, the addition of Old Rip Van Winkle and the emergence of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection will be remembered for decades to come. The popularity of these brands have driven tens of thousands of new bourbon customers to the Buffalo Trace portfolio so if they are not careful, shortages and empty shelves could easily become a part of the story as well.

Quite frankly, I am more of a mash bill #2 guy, but this bottle of Buffalo Trace caught me eye. First, it is a single barrel offering from Total Beverage. I am a sucker for a single barrel of a brand that is normally a small batch, plus I really enjoyed the 2003 Evan Williams from this Total Beverage. Second, it was only $17, which means my feelings won’t be hurt if a friend decides to pour some in a glass of coke.

Buffalo Trace Single Barrel

Buffalo Trace is 90 proof and estimated to be made from barrels around eight years old. Normally you will find it around $20 to $24, but at that price there are about a dozen bottles that I find to be more attractive. Hopefully the guys at Total Beverage were able to pull a superior barrel and save this bottle from a destiny of coke and ice.

Color: Light honey, watered down sweet tea.

Nose: Distinctly sweet and light, moderate notes of a young corn and a faint toasted oak that is just above the surface. Vanilla, honey, apricot, mint and a smothered spice box are most notable after the corn and wood.

Sip: Medium mouthfeel, nothing special but not bad. Corn is the loudest, but notes of dark sugars help balance the profile. Maple syrup, caramelized brown sugar and honey blend well with apple, apricot and red berries. The back is slightly floral. Mint, cinnamon, clove and a moderate charred oak round out the back.

Finish: Medium in length, with corn and vanilla lasting the longest.

Overall Grade: C+

Strictly going off of memory form the last time I had Buffalo Trace, I would say this barrel is different, but not necessarily better. It has a very nice depth in the front sweetness and the nose is very enjoyable but the spice and wood in the palate is one dimensional and the finish is marginal at best.

I don’t regret the purchase at $17, but I would not recommend it at the normal retail price (anything above $20).

Drink this, not that: I would buy a regular bottle of Buffalo Trace before I bought another bottle of the Total Beverage single barrel. Then again, I would buy Elmer T. Lee over any of the low rye Buffalo Trace brands.

For the price, Larceny is a better overall bourbon for about $22 a bottle, but the wheated profile is nothing comparable to Buffalo Trace. Wild Turkey 101 is higher on my list as well.

For any price, Eagle Rare 10 Year is the best of the #1 mash bill bourbons. It does suffer from some inconsistency, but if you enjoy the lower rye bourbon from Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare is the best of that bunch.

2 responses to “Buffalo Trace Review – Single Barrel from Total Beverage

  1. These single barrels are attractive gimmicks but after a few tries I’m not too hopeful. I’ve had a BT picked by K&L Wines before, and Knob Creek 9yo picked by The Party Source, neither too impressive. The picking process usually means that a guy in an office receives five samples and he picks one of them. He doesn’t even have to like them, knowing that if he can sell the generic brand he’ll be able to sell the hand-picked barrel (the prices typically are the same). I’m also not sure whether “single barrel” really means that the whisky spent the entire aging time in that particular barrel. So I’m not surprised by your low grade.

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    • There is one store in Denver where I would assume it was better than the standard brand, but the rest I am pretty skeptical. Mostly I enjoy single barrels of small batches, but Woodford Reserve’s Double Oak single barrels are small batches rebarreled into a second barrel for a short period and then sold as a “single barrel”. I didn’t have huge expectations, but didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was. Oh well, lesson learned.

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